“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The more you eat...

Today I made Dreena's Double Chocolate Chippers again, and was ready to make something new but am completely out of maple syrup! This is devastating! LOL I guess I'll have to go get another half gallon.

And tonight for dinner, it was a "what in the world do I have on hand?" kind of night that resulted in a two bean chili. Chilis are great because they are easily vegan and you really can use what you have for the most part. Here's the version I whipped up tonight, and my husband said it was one of my best:

I Didn't Go To The Store Chili

Half a white onion, chopped
Two cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon canola oil
One large can Dei Fratelli petite diced tomatoes
About 1 tablespoon San Marzano tomato paste (I like Cento brand in the tube)
One jalapeño, chopped
One green onion, sliced
One handful cilantro, chopped
One can black beans
One can cannellini (white kidney) beans
1 - 1 1/2 cup(s) of water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
1 rounded 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 rounded 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon or so coriander

Put the onions, garlic, and oil in a Dutch oven and sauté until starting to get translucent. Add the remaining ingredients, boil for ten minutes or so to reduce the liquid. Turn off the heat and let sit for a while, it will thicken some more and get cool enough for your husband's sweet tongue. NOM!




Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I could use a Lift

Well, I haven't made anything from Let Them Eat Vegan in a minute. I have made cookies from the Forks Over Knives book and my own version of Pasta e Fagioli (soup with beans and pasta). I am busy tonight but I will post the recipe sometime. It is an amazingly easy, healthy, and vegan dish that provides dinner for at least three nights, bonus!!!!!

Amid the Christmas prep and everything else, I was reminded by a blog entry I did last year that humans do not have willpower, we just have habits. To achieve goals, we truly have to make it a habit to work on them. In this spirit, I went searching for an app that would keep me accountable/focused.


Of all people, those behind Twitter have created one I've enjoyed so far: Lift. Lift is a socially driven habit app. When you add habits, you join other people also trying to keep the same habit. If you create a habit, other people can join it. Every time you check it off, it shows up in the feed along with every other member that has also checked it off. Then everyone can give each other props or even comment on the check off.

I thought that whole strangers part of it was kind of hokey at first, but now I kind of like it. I kind of feel like a part of something, like we are all in this.

Oddly, I've been super productive today. I haven't (yet) checked off everything today, but I have a clean kitchen, a walked dog, Christmas shopping done, my weight watchers tracker is up to date, and I took my many vitamins and supplements. Oh, and I finally sent in my application to volunteer with our local family services/domestic violence group. I hope to hear from them soon and direct some of my ENFJedness.

Check Lift out and let me know what you think!


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Butchering The Hobbit

First, Connecticut, you have our deepest sympathy, our tears, and our prayers. Bless the little Angels that were sent to Heaven today. Bless the families and their broken hearts, their empty homes, their unopened presents. We are here for you with all of our love and healing energy and can only pray that you might feel some small comfort in that fact.

The FBI actively pursues and investigates people that grow plants, while leaving millions of dangerous mentally ill to walk the streets, our schools, our homes.

Terrible things happen without reason, love your neighbors so that no person with mental illnesses goes uncared for. The apathy in our justice system and the protection of the dangerous needs to stop and it needs to stop now. I'm disgusted that we are solely a reactive society. We are not proactive. We make it hard to impossible to get help when it's needed and are only interested in taking you to the hospital/declaring you dead when the damage is already done. Treating/controlling the mentally ill needs to be a high priority and the people that fear them need to be able to easily obtain protection.

You can't tell me that in 2012 there is no test, no observation, no way to prove that someone is mentally ill. Hell, I've witnessed mental illness on reality TV. Make people live under cameras, eventually their real selves will shine through. Even proven and convicted mentally ill that have already struck are still more protected than their victims. We cannot continue to let these individuals go unloved and untreated and leave them loose in society. We cannot continue to re-victimize the ones they hurt. We can't. We send millions to jail for possession of a plant and we leave millions of dangerous, dangerous people on the streets. I'm starting to think the only way to get the justice system to protect us is to put a bag of weed in their pockets. It's pathetic. People are deadly weapons. People are deadly weapons. PEOPLE are deadly weapons.

Our The Hobbit souvenir giant cup
Our The Hobbit souvenir giant cup

The Hobbitses

But, I digress. OK, so now on to the movie review of The Hobbit. Totally unimportant, but I just wasted $50 and six hours of my life on this film. Well, I can't say it was totally wasted, it was a distraction from my tears for Connecticut, and my husband was enjoying himself and that's all that matters.

First of all, I have never read ANY of Tolkein's works, so you can say I'm unqualified to even have two pennies on this movie, but it's a film, so the contents of the book and whether I've read it or not should be irrelevant. I should be able to buy my ticket, stuff my face with popcorn, and be riveted and entertained for the entire three (THREE!!!) hours.

Having about five novels in the works and having studied plot extensively, I know, as should Mr. Jackson, that every single story has to start out with someone that HAS to follow through with whatever it is that challenges them in order to get what they want. The prince has to save the princess, Dorothy has to save her dog then get home, Harry Potter has to save the world, Frodo has to destroy the ring.

This is CRUCIAL to any plot!

I can't say where the additions in this film to The Hobbit came from; Peter Jackson's imagination, some other books, the LOTR appendices, etc., but I can say that all of them that WERE additions (according to my husband), added absolutely nothing to this basic architecture of a story. The items from the book that were cut are an absolute, unforgivable shame and a disgrace to Mr. Tolkein's works.

The hour spent on showing the dwarves and their apparent tapeworm affliction did NOTHING to show why Bilbo would be invested in this journey. The made up scene where he wakes up and runs off to join them, tells us nothing. My very first question to my husband when this mental torture was finally over was, "Why in the hell should I care if Bilbo goes on this journey with them or not??" Peter, you lost me from the hello!!

According to my husband, what was LEFT OUT from the book, was the fact that the dwarves harass and belittle Bilbo. They make him feel worthless. The entire story is about him PROVING himself. Had I had any clue that he was feeling the need to prove himself, I may have been even remotely interested in the events that later transpired. This is the most fatal flaw of this movie. I get that Tolkein fans will go to the theater knowing the story, they are automatically invested because they know what happens and are in suspense waiting to see it unfold on film.

Our The Hobbit popcorn bag
Our The Hobbit popcorn bag
For those of us like me that haven't a clue what the story is about, leaving out a real reason for Bilbo to go on this journey was film suicide. This was the longest three hours of my life and I could not wait for it to end. I couldn't even concern myself with the other 14 or whatever characters because they were just after their giant vault of gold. Like I give two shits about their gold hoard! Seriously!

Then you add what should be the fun little challenges along the way, but they weren't fun or concerning because I wasn't emotionally invested in ANY character and it was immediately obvious that everyone was going to survive every single time.

Ugh, I just can't even. Apparently the one-armed marshmallow man was an addition to the story as well. What a shame because the cliche of all of those scenes literally made me laugh out loud. The "Noooo!!!!" from the trees, the "BLAHHHHH!!!" from the frustrated dude, foiled again!

Planet Dwarf

On a positive note, this was a beautiful film. We saw it in IMAX 3D and it was crystal clear and the scenery was majestic. I actually felt like I was watching Planet Earth with a bunch of little hairy men sprinkled on the mountain tops via great CGI. Visually, this is gorgeous. It would have been fantastic if I could find anything interesting in the story to make me want to watch it instead of play with my phone, which I couldn't even do out of respect for those around us.

To top everything off, some person behind me made CONSTANT sniffling noises; at least I thought they were loud sniffling noises until my husband told me on the way home that the kid behind him kicked his chair the entire movie. I cannot believe he did not say anything!! So 2/3rds of the movie for me were "Nooo!!!" ISSSSHHHH "My precious!!" ISHHHHHH "BLAHHHHH" ISHHHHHH "Orcs!!!" ISSSHHHHHH... A better plot would have been this:

Girl spends a lot of money to see a much-hyped movie, but can't hear it because there's constant ISSSHHHing noise right behind her, she hunts down the source of the noise, in the dark with lots of scary people, makes it stop, and can finally pay attention to the awesome movie. See how that works Petey?

I already know that Bilbo lives because of his presence in The Lord of the Rings and all, but in my opinion, the writers/editors of this movie butchered him and I'm the one that suffered.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fa la la la lalafel

Well deck the halls with boughs of parsley! 'Tis the season to make falafel! Dreena Burton's Panfried Falafel Patties, that is.

Panfried Falafel Patties Let Them Eat Vegan - Pan
Panfried Falafel Patties Let Them Eat Vegan - Pan
I actually had the ingredients on hand tonight for these babies, which I've been dreaming of since before I even bought the cookbook! I love falafel. These tender, vegan patties can be eaten on their own as snacks, become part of a whole meal, be put in a pita, be added to a bun, be tasty in a grilled "cheese" sandwich... they are spicy and herby and nom!!!

Panfried Falafel Patties Let Them Eat Vegan
Panfried Falafel Patties Let Them Eat Vegan
The prep is super easy as everything just goes right in the food processor; rip up the herbs, add the onions and celery, and start tossing in spices! It calls for canned chickpeas but I had dried chickpeas that I'd already prepared and put in the freezer. I just covered them with hot water while I prepared the other ingredients and they were fine. I also cut the recipe in half because that's all I had on hand as far as ready to go chickpeas, and that was more than enough for the two of us.

I did go a little crazy and end up dumping the flour, that is meant for the patties to be rolled in, in the processor. I was able to scoop most of it out when I realized my mistake. I also didn't put these in the refrigerator and they were plenty firm.

Baked Falafel Patties Let Them Eat Vegan
Baked Falafel Patties Let Them Eat Vegan
I have never been a very successful pan fryer. I tried half of the batch on the stove, in oil. They actually tasted fine, but they got a little dark brown. And they absorbed ALL of the oil. I've read that if you deep fry and the oil is hot enough, it won't be absorbed by the food, so I might even try that sometime.

The second half of the batch I baked in the oven. They came out like little green, flavorful, savory cookies! They don't look authentic but they taste just fine.

I didn't really plan out the rest of the meal so we just had them on wheat buns with sweet pickles and plenty of fresh spinach, with a salad on the side. My husband loved them! I snacked on a few while the rest were baking, they are just so good! A local restaurant here served them with real grilled cheese and used pickled turnips and it was actually super tasty. I'd love to have them in a pita with some fixins too!

Falafels are a great spicy protein and now I know that they are SUPER easy to make! Honestly, I think this might make a great hummus-type dip, too!

Panfried Falafel Patties
Let Them Eat Vegan by Dreena Burton
Rating: FIVE stars!
Weight Watcher's Points Plus: 2pts Each
Cook's Tip: Follow the directions, baking works fine, I didn't find the refrigeration step to be necessary. If you're going to put them in a bun, make them bun sized!



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Did Someone Say Chocolate?

Let them eat vegan double chocolate Chippers
Let Them Eat Vegan Double Chocolate Chippers
Today was a hard day at work, I was at the office late then stopped at the grocery store and had to get gas ($3.11? Yes please!) on the way home. By the time I got to the house, I was exhausted and shaky so tonight we had Chik'n sandwiches and the leftover Mac-oh-geez from yesterday. Tonight I drizzled siracha on it and it was nommmm!!!! Maybe next time I make it I'll just add that to the sauce...


So, no entree tonight, but I did manage to get some COOKIES made and in the oven! I tried Dreena's Double Chocolate Chippers and my tongue told me thank you. It's also easy to bake when one has had a glass of Bethenny Frankel's Skinnygirl white WINE that is finally in our grocery store!! I expected it to be sweet but it was dry and it was tasty. As with all other Skinnygirl drinks, I could feel the alcohol right away and it was a nice little treat after a challenging workday.


"They were awesome honey!! Good job!!" -- My Husband

Wait, where was I? Okay so back to the cocoa-ie cook-ies! These are super easy to mix up and, again, I love that Dreena uses the same pantry items over again so I don't have to have a million different ingredients. I actually purchased her recommended spelt flour tonight so these were true to the recipe. They are sweetened with unrefined sugar and pure maple syrup again. I added almonds... yummm.


As with other vegan snacks, these don't really poof up, so make them pretty when you put them on the pan. She says to flatten them slightly for a reason! They hold together though so they are easily portable. I love them with the almonds and I think you will enjoy them more with crunchy nuts.


You can pull these off the pan faster than you would "normal" cookies, as there are obviously no eggs. A little wet in the middle makes for a softer cookie.


My husband detects the sea salt in all of these recipes, but I enjoy the pop of salt with my sweet. You might want to reduce it a bit if you are sensitive too.

Double Chocolate Chippers
Let Them Eat Vegan by Dreena Burton
Rating: FIVE stars
Weight Watchers Points Plus: 3pts Each
Cook's Tips: Add some nuts!



Beef, it's someone's muscle.

Engine 2 added a Wall Street Journal article today to their email, about the crisis in the American milk industry:

"Americans drank an average of 20.2 gallons of milk last year, a decline of 3.3% from the previous year and the biggest year-over-year slide since at least 1975, according to the USDA."

This made me think about a lovely time in my life when I worked for a company that sold cattle at auction for dairy and beef production. I managed a retail store for them, but after a big breakup I started to spend more time in the sale barn (with yet another big mistake that worked in there).

Let me first say that I truly loved these folks, and thought of them as my own family. It breaks my heart that their livelihood may be jeopardized, but I know that they will find ways to adapt. Plus, the change in the American diet will never affect the entire population. Men like their steak.

Hep! Hep! Hep! Heyyyyy!

It is with no disrespect to them that I give you this memory of the dusty, loud sale barn. The very first night I ever spent in there, watching the cows being brought up to the scale, paraded in front of the buyers, and then led to their ride to death left me with one impression: this is hell.

It was amazing and frightening to me what the cows went through. I look at all animals and compare them to my dog - I love my dog (and all previous dogs) and cannot imagine them being eaten. I look at the way I snuggle with our girl and I can't imagine her being frightened in trailer, frightened in a pen with strangers, frightened going down the chute, frightened by the yelling and the Hot Shots and the other cattle, frightened by the (usually downright cruel) truckers, and frightened on their way into the eventual stop at the slaughterhouse. It broke my heart.

The worst are the old dairy cows being sold now for beef. Some asshole farmers milk them to their death. They come in barely able to walk, and sometimes they go down before or after they make the ring. One day one was picked up with a Bobcat, moved, and eventually died. Can you imagine? A big metal bucket scooping up a dying animal. No sympthay, just the hope that she makes it to the slaughterhouse.

Of course, goats and hogs also go through the barn. The process isn't much different for them. They are terrified.

Everyone does it, so it must be right.

Eventually, I saw it for what they saw it for - a business. We all eat them, it's ok. They are here to feed us... doesn't the Bible say that? While in the back of my mind, I always knew it was wrong. It was too much, we eat them too much, we breed them to kill them and there's no pretty way to do it. I grew up thinking farmers raised the cattle and killed them all in one spot, that they lived happy lives on green grass under blue skies and were well-fed until one day when they were taken into a room and had no idea what was going on.

But the truth is, as much as the slaughterhouses try to make that final step unterrifying (chemicals they release when scared make the meat taste bad, after all), there are plenty of steps that lead to that final breath that are truly horrible for the animal. There are plenty of unethical farmers, angry truckers, and immature barn hands along the way.

The top of the food chain means we have the intellect to do what is right.

One of the greatest pleasures in our new diet is knowing that I either don't or rarely contribute to these mass murders. I remember when we acquired Halal meat for our Muslim friends and I was so surprised at the lengths they went to to make sure that was all they ate. Now, I think about what it means for meat to be Halal (the animal is respected until the end and slaughtered in a way that is supposed to inflict the least amount of pain; the jugular vein is cut with a very sharp knife after a prayer I believe) and I think that is the right way to do things. Of course, I want the animal to experience no pain, but I want them to be respected through their entire life, and I hope we change to eating meat on more rare occasions. And, sorry milk, but I I don't want you either. Cow milk is meant for their babies, not for us.

I used to HATE dealing with raw meat and poultry. I think I was always a vegetarian, it was just a matter of time before I really discovered it and part of that discovery took education and part of it was the absence of the pressure (and cooking) of my family.

Meat: when you really stop to think about where it comes from and what you're chewing... Yuck.



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Say what Mac?

Mac-Oh-Geez from Let Them Eat Vegan
Moving on to entrees, tonight I had limited ingredients, dictating my final entree decision. I opted for Dreena's Mac-Oh-Geez, what she describes as "comfort food".
I was a little weirded out as I gathered all of my ingredients that there was nothing resembling a cheese substitute. Then I was even more concerned when this recipe filled an 8x12 dish but she says it's a mere four servings.. I was even more concerned when I calculated the Weight Watchers Plus Points value and it was 21 points!! Fortunately, it was more like a good six servings.
The preparation went pretty smoothly, find a bunch of nuts, put them in a food processor, squeeze a lemon, yada yada. Boiling the pasta was the most stressful part of the whole affair (oh, and the lemon seeds) but the dish still took about 30 minutes to come together.

"Well, it's not the worst thing I've eaten." -- My Husband

I was so excited for this take on Mac and Cheese that I was a little shocked by what I got. I used my on-hand Italian seasoned bread crumbs and there were WAY. TOO. MANY. BREAD CRUMBS! I admired the dish before it went into the oven thinking how it reminded me of sand on the beach, and sand on the beach was about the texture it ended up with. I will definitely have to fix this on future attempts and it completely distracted from any flavor in the dish.
The noodles were fine, I used whole wheat penne, but the creamy sauce was almost non-existant. I could have stood it a little bit juicier. Flavor was probably not bad if you took away the plethora of crumbly bread bits, but my husband had to put hot sauce on it.
This was more of a side dish than an entree, and all of the nuts (it called for cashews and Brazil nuts and I had to use almonds instead of the BN's) really rocked the Weight Watchers points... not to mention the added oil (which I did try to go light on).
Whole foods? Check. Plant strong? Checkish. Entree? Probably not. I bet this sucker could have some other fun stuff added to it and be amazing - I'll keep you posted.

Let Them Eat Vegan by Dreena Burton
Rating: Three Stars
Weight Watcher's Points: 14 points per serving (six servings)
Cook's Tip: Go easy on the breadcrumbs. Go heavy on the liquids. Plan as a side dish.